THEY say that two out of three ain’t bad. But when it comes to New Zealand Test hookers, Knights coach Nathan Brown apparently reckons a triumvirate would be even better.
Already with a pair of Kiwi-international dummy-halves on his roster, in Danny Levi and Slade Griffin, Brown reportedly made the most of his time in camp with the All Blacks last week to meet with veteran Warriors rake Issac Luke in Wellington.
Luke is off contract and for months there has been speculation that the Warriors were struggling to find enough room under their salary cap to accommodate him.
As the Warriors general manager of football, Brian Smith, told the New Zealand Herald in July: “If what it takes to get Issac to stay next season is within our reach we will do everything we can to keep him.
“He’s keen to stay and we just need to make sure that we can afford him and we've got to comply with the salary cap, so it's going to be a bit of a juggling act. Issac’s management are setting out to find out what his market value is, and we’ve let him and his management know that that's more than fair and reasonable that he does that.”
Newcastle’s interest in Luke highlights their concern surrounding Griffin, who suffered a horrific knee injury in July, a week after making his Test debut. After his fourth bout of reconstructive surgery, the former Melbourne grand final winner is expected to miss at least half of next season.
Sport: the Newcastle Knights
That leaves Levi as Newcastle’s only fit hooker on contract, although utility forward Jamie Buhrer and rookie Tom Starling may yet be retained.
Should Newcastle sign 31-year-old Luke, Levi would be entitled to experience mixed emotions.
The 22-year-old has often described Luke, a veteran of 42 Test and 254 club games, as his childhood hero. The chance to work alongside and learn from a player of such experience could be invaluable.
By the same token, Levi grew disenchanted earlier this year when, despite playing in all 24 games for the Knights in 2017 and representing New Zealand in four Tests at the World Cup, he found himself briefly in Newcastle’s reserve-grade team.
Levi admires Griffin, describing him as “a weapon”, but when he was overlooked for even a bench spot for the first four games of the season, he asked Brown to be released from his contract, which runs until the end of 2020. His request was denied.
“It was more so me just being really unhappy because I honestly believed my form warranted being picked and I didn't know why I wasn't,” he told the Newcastle Herald in July.
Griffin’s injury meant that Levi played the last eight games of the year in Newcastle’s top side, earning selection in the Kiwis’ train-on squad for the September 13 Test against Australia.
Luke was also named, and there is a possibility he and Levi could be deployed in tandem not only against the Kangaroos, but at club level for the Knights next season.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.